Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Nashville Predators Send Four NHL Award Nominees to Las Vegas
In the Nashville Predators twelve season franchise history, the team has only had two representatives at the NHL Awards Show. This year the Preds doubled that figure in one season with David Poile, Barry Trotz, Sea Weber and Pekka Rinne all receiving nominations.
Two years ago, Steve Sullivan was the Preds' first Award Show guy when he was nominated for and won the Masterton Trophy after he came back to play at the end of a two year rehabilitation from a severe back injury. Last season, Barry Trotz finished second to Dave Tippett in the balloting for the Jack Adams Award for coach of the year. Also in 2010, Preds GM David Poile was one of three nominees for the inaugural GM of the Year Award that was not a part of the actual Awards show.
David Poile was nominated again this year along with Mike Gillis from Vancouver and rookie GM Steve Yzerman from Tampa Bay. The award has become a permanent part of the festivities in Las Vegas. It is difficult to pick a winner among the three as each brings something different to the table.
Yzerman stepped in and stabilized a Lightning franchise that had been sailing without a rudder under the old ownership. Gillis's Canucks team won the President’s Trophy. Poile did what he always does and pulled a continuous string of rabbits out of as hat that included resurrecting the careers of Sergei Kostitsyn and Shane O'Brien as well as inserting draft choices Jon Blum and Blake Geoffrion into the lineup during a playoff chase.
Predators' Captain Shea Weber appears to have an excellent chance to take home the Norris Trophy which is given to the most outstanding all-round defenseman. He is up against Boston's Zdeno Chara who won two years ago and Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom that has won six times.
Weber appears to have strong support in Canada and is well liked throughout the league. Joe Haggerty of CSN Northeast has admitted to voting for Weber over the hometown Chara.
Weber was looking forward to the experience at the end of the season, “I’m just going day by day. When I get back to Canada I’ll figure out what is going on. I’ve been once before (to Vegas) so it should be a lot of fun.”
Pekka Rinne received the nomination for the Vezina Trophy (outstanding goaltender) along with the two goalies that faced off in the Stanley Cup Finals, Tim Thomas of Boston and Roberto Luongo from Vancouver.
Tim Thomas would appear to have the inside track after setting the all-time NHL record for save percentage with a .938 and leading the league in goals against average too. Rinne should be a solid second and has laid the groundwork for the potential of several future awards. Had it not been for Thomas's once in a decade season, Rinne probably would have won hands down.
Rinne is excited about the nomination. “I’m making plans. It’s exciting and I’ve never been to Vegas so I’m looking forward to it.”
When he received the nomination, Rinne was in a battle with Anaheim and could not fully appreciate it the nomination, “It feels great. It's really amazing. It's hard to realize right now. It should feel better after the season. It is a real honor to be named one of the top guys with so many great goalies. I realize that I am pretty fortunate to play here and play behind our great defense and a great team.”
“I get to see him day in and day out and he would get my nomination any time,” said Barry Trotz. “He's been outstanding. He's been consistent. He's been our MVP and the reason that we were able to make the playoffs. It was a well deserved nomination.”
Anaheim's Teemu Sellane, who is a fellow countryman, commented on Rinne during the playoffs, “I think he should win that for sure. He's having an unbelievable year.”
Selanne then added a bit of humor to the discussion, “I heard that the Finnish National Team in the World Championships are missing an NHL goalie so it would be awesome for him to get to go.” That could have only happened had the Ducks made a comeback to send the Preds packing.
Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz rounds out the nominees with his pick as a Jack Adams finalist for the second year in a row. He is up against Dan Bylsma from Pittsburgh and Alain Vigneault from the President's Cup winning Vancouver Canucks.
It would appear that the voting could be a dead heat between Trotz and Bylsma with both teams being ravaged by injuries. The Preds lost the services of Matt Lombardi, who was signed to be their first line center, for all but two games as well as lengthy injuries to Cal O'Reilly, Marcel Goc, Pekka Rinne, Francis Bouillon, Ryan Suter, Marty Erat, Steve Sullivan, David Legwand, as well as having Jordin Tootoo having an extended absence for personal reasons.
Bylsma's challenge was to re-invent the Penguins at mid season when Sidney Crosby was lost after the Winter Classic with a concussion. Evgeni Malkin also went out with a knee injury for a big chunk of the season and Jordin Staahl did not play his first game until New Year's Day.
Trotz is elated that he is not the Lone Ranger this year, “I’ve got some friends going!, I’m really happy for Shea, Peks, and David for getting some recognition. It just validates our franchise and what we did this year. ”
The NHL Awards Show will be held at the Perle Theater at the Palms Resort and Casino and will be broadcast by Versus Network at 6 p.m. CDT on Wednesday.
Buddy Oakes for PredsOnTheGlass